From Student To Midwife: The First Year

For the past 2 weeks I have had a great student midwife working along side me. Ailish has almost completed her first year into midwifery training and has offered to write a series of blog posts to help answer any questions you might have about starting your training. If you are thinking about becoming a midwife or you’ve already qualified and have forgotten what those 3 years really entailed, these guest posts should help you along on your journey or remind you of how challenging your training was.

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Next week is my last as a first year student midwife. It’s been a long journey getting to this point. The stress, excitement, fear, joy (or any other emotion you could think of) that I’ve experienced over the last year have merged in to a blur and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m not saying that it’s been easy, and there have been times I have seriously thought “what am I doing?! Why I am I here?!” but whenever that happens I can step back, take a breath, and realise how lucky I am to be doing something I love.

I’m not one of those people who you encounter at interviews, who put their hands up and declare that they knew they wanted to be a midwife from the age of three. Firstly, because it seems unrealistic that a toddler has the ability to make a valid career choice, and secondly, because it’s not true. At twenty-one years of age I was studying Society and Culture at university, working part time and had possibly less of an idea of what I wanted to do with my life than I did when I was in nursery. Then I fell pregnant and everything changed. I quit university, upped my working hours to full time and desperately tried to get my head around the fact that I was slowly but surely growing a teeny person who would be entirely dependent on me. It was totally overwhelming. My long-term partner was supportive, and I was still living at home with my parents who were amazing throughout the whole pregnancy, but I still approached my due date feeling unprepared and (if I’m honest) completely terrified. I don’t remember a single midwife from my antenatal care – a lovely mentor I have since worked with as a student suggested this was because I hadn’t felt empowered by any of them, and sadly, I agree.

Then in labour I had support from a beautifully kind midwife who changed my perspective entirely. She encouraged without pressure, enabled my independence without deserting me, and created an environment which nurtured the concept that I could birth my baby without fear. Six hours later and 6lb 3oz lighter, I was holding my little boy; still pretty terrified, but more positive and confident than I had felt in the nine months preceding that moment.

Fast forward past nappy changes, sleepless nights, weaning issues and moving to a new flat; I was back at work part time but my heart wasn’t in it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’d been interested in the whole “your baby is the size of a grapefruit” emails as much as the next pregnant lady, but now a hobby which I’d cultivated over nine months became something I wanted to pursue further. I started researching midwifery as a career, using sites like StudentMidwife ( and NHS Careers ( but they just told me the basics. I applied for work experience placements and got two separate week long assignments full of antenatal clinics, postnatal visits, natural birth and instrumental deliveries – I observed and absorbed it all.

More aware of what I was getting myself in to, and even more sure it was the path I wanted to take, I enrolled on an Access to Nursing course. Working two days a week, studying three days a week and being a mummy 24/7 wasn’t easy. Biology, psychology, health studies, exams, essays, presentations… I could not have got through it without a good support system, passion for what I was doing and huge (no, massive) amounts of gin. I also completed a three day training course as a Doula through Nurturing Birth ( purely as a foundation for research and ideas in to natural childbirth. It was an awesome experience and I met some inspiring people, but it also cemented the fact that I wanted to take the extra step in to midwifery as an undergraduate.

I was accepted in to three out of four universities which I had applied for; choosing which to accept was a personal decision. As a mother, block placement and study (e.g. seven weeks academic block, followed by seven weeks clinical block) did not appeal in terms of childcare or family life. Integrated study (e.g. two days per week at university, 3 days on clinical placement) suited my lifestyle not only for my personal relationships, but for my learning preference. Learning a subject in lecture on a Monday, performing the skill in a clinical lab on a Tuesday, and then applying it all to real-life midwifery the next day works well for me. Choosing a university is difficult for anyone, but for a midwifery student, you have to be slightly more mature (who said boring?!) about your decision. Rather than meticulously working out which student union will meet your musical/drinking/love life requirements, try pondering which hospital you want to train in (busy inner city? Mellow suburban?), how you are going navigate public transport for an early shift at 6.45am or how you’re getting to that home birth when you’re on call at 3am.

I’m making it sound a bit rubbish, aren’t I? It’s brilliant, honestly. On every single interview day I went to for uni, the opening line was “you can still have a social life and be a student midwife!” and it is true, I promise. I have friends training as midwives in numerous other universities and the set up for first year seems pretty standard, so let’s break it down:

First term – going crazy at Fresher’s fortnight, am I right?! Ummmm, no, not really. The first five weeks are 9-5 with a mix of mandatory training, lectures and time in clinical labs learning skills such as abdominal palpations and taking a blood pressure. You can try doing this hungover (quite a few did), but by the third week most of us had settled in to a routine and accepted that this was just not going to be the carefree, waking up at midday, strolling to a one hour lecture existence that had been advertised. Anyway, as a mama to a toddler, it was mainly a case of organising childcare, then arranging back up childcare should your first let you down, and then arranging a back up for your back up JUST IN CASE. Social life wasn’t a priority – by the time we had started integrated study in week six I was happy to come home from a twelve hour shift, neck a stiff cup of green tea and fall asleep whilst reading a good book (Michel Odent or Ina May Gaskin, natch).

Second term – by this point, I was feeling a bit more in control of both my home and professional life. Lectures were interesting, skills labs were becoming more complex and placement was something I looked forward to (most) days. I’ve had shifts where I have met amazing, strong women and been given the chance to input positively in to their experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Mentors I worked with inspired me to be a better student and take advantage of every single learning opportunity. Saying that, I also had shifts where I had to go and have a little cry in the toilet because I felt so overwhelmed and incompetent, and I’ve worked with midwives where our ideals and ways of practice have clashed. It’s such a rollercoaster, and was so important for me to have a supportive partner and friends to sound off on particularly after the bad days, but also after the good ones.

Final term – did I say I felt more in control?! Exams, essays and a whole summer of full time placement rounds off first year. My little boy has both started and finished his first year at nursery and I can count on one hand the number of times I have been available to drop him off or pick him up. I am attempting to cram eight months of biology and medicines management for exams in to a frazzled brain whilst having two essays on the go. My student loan is going down, whilst my responsibility on placement is steadily going up. Friends the same age as me are getting married, travelling the world, buying houses, and are established in their careers. I however, am grunting at my boyfriend, travelling on the 8am train home from my third night shift in a row and establishing the rule that pot noodles are an acceptable dinner to eat from my rented flat.

This week is my last week as a first year student midwife and I can’t wait to start my second. As hard as it has been on me, it has been just as hard, if not harder on my family. I’ve kept going throughout for the one reason that I know, deep-down-in-the-gut-KNOW, that midwifery is what I should be doing with my life. Women’s bodies and minds are astounding – conceiving, growing and birthing new life is an incredible occurrence that I have the privilege of being part of on a daily basis. Training for me is not just about juggling workloads or meeting pass rates – I want to be the type of midwife who could also one day empower a scared new mum and stir up a passion in her to start this same journey. I’ll just remind her to stock up on the ginbeforehand.



Birth Story Of The Week – Lisa and Oscar

‘I’m not a closed book kind of person. Most of my friends would agree (I hope)  that I’m fairly open with them. I think I’m happy to share most things (although I sometimes find it hard, we know that!) However I have been overwhelmed with the ease at which I have been able to share my birth story. Oscars birth was a deeply personal and intimate experience in my life and yet I have been completely open about it, offering up information I would never have dreamt of sharing before I had him. And do you know why? It’s because everyone does it! We seem to wear our birth stories like badges of honour. And whats wrong with that?

So if you’ve heard this already I’m sorry – but here it comes again!

My pregnancy was pretty text book really. I didn’t have morning sickness, although I did spend a few weeks feels nauseous ALL BLOODY DAY! Morning my arse! Anyway that cleared up at 10 weeks, and everything else was pretty standard.

I was under a consultant from day one, partly due to my high BMI, partly due to my epilepsy, so was monitored fairly closely. I never had any problems and the gestational diabetes and larger than average baby everyone kept predicting, never materialised. Take that obstetric generalisations!

It was at a routine midwife appointment at 35 weeks, they noticed that my blood pressure, which had been falling throughout my pregnancy had suddenly shot up. This lead to a week in hospital and much worry about suspected pre-eclampsia and whether this baby would make full term. An NCT friend had been diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia the week before and had to deliver her baby by C Section at 35 weeks, so I knew all too well how serious this situation could be.

I could write a whole post about this experience, but as this a birth story, I’ll leave that for another day. Suffice to say that after a week of trying, the hospital managed to stabilise my BP with drugs. I practically cheered as we left, with my tiny baby still safely tucked away.

I went home, I tided, I hoovered the ceilings, I slept on the sofa. I had a week of maternity leave and I loved it.

After another week or so I had a routine appointment with my consultant, the wonderful and no nonsense Lesley Roberts. She took one look at my BP and said, “I’m sorry Lisa you can’t go home today”. I burst into tears. I was taken back up to the same ward I’d just escaped, given more meds and resolved to try and get this sorted. When they checked me they said I was no where near ready to give birth, so wouldn’t attempt an induction. However, my BP would just not play ball and kept rising, spiking in the middle of the night, when I was asleep of all things!

I felt so frustrated. This baby was 38 weeks gestation, plenty cooked enough and here I was taking more and more drugs that seemed to do nothing. Eventually, a canny midwife saw just how frustrated I was and took me aside. Quietly, she told me that if an induction was really what I wanted, then the next time I saw the doctor I was to cry. Simple as that. So, I did as she said and do you know, it only bloody worked! It seemed getting emotional worked where being rational had failed. I was given a pessary to start things off.

I wont bore you with the next two days, as very little happened. I got some twinges, like very mild contractions, that then stopped. On day three they decided that if they could break my water I’d be able to start a proper Scyntocinon induction. Only, they didn’t tell me this is what they were doing. I thought it was odd that they gave me a gas and air pipe. Ahh then I knew why! It was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. They were right, he was still really high up and to reach him felt like I was being set on fire. I went into a zone, where I felt like I put myself on a shelf and could only hear every third word being said. It was awful and amazing all at the same time. Then I heard her say no she couldn’t do it, so I took myself of the shelf. Then she said oh hang on and finally I felt a whoosh as my waters broke. Finally we were getting this party started.

I was hooked up to the drip and given an epidural, as induced labour can come on very hard and very fast. Although not in my case. I was there for 24 hours and he moved a centimetere. Seriously! I knew it was looking dodgy when the midwife suggested at 3 in the morning that it was best not to eat anymore. I think we could all see the writing on the wall. The induction I’d cried for had failed. It would be a C section now. I was a tiny bit gutted as I really wanted to go through the whole process we’d talked about at such length in my NCT group, but actually I just wanted this baby with me and my BP to settle down.

At 9am on 2nd April ( yeah I know – I think Oscar hung on for fear of being born on April Fools Day!) it was declared that an emergency section was needed and I was in theatre within 20 minutes. I remember the table I was lying on was at an angle so I felt like I was going to fall off. I remember the anesthetist running ice down my shoulder to see if the spinal block had kicked in yet. I remember Adele and Otis Reading coming on the radio. I remember feeling like I was being jumped up and down on but feeling no pain (weird in the extreme). I remember hearing him cry before I felt them lift him fully clear of me. I remember crying and crying and crying with relief. That he was here, that he was strong and that I’d done it.

They weighed him and gave him to me, but I couldn’t see his face so had to give him to Ben, so I could take a proper look. He was just so beautiful.

Then they took him away for tests and I started to feel sick. I managed to shout out in time and the quick thinking anesthetist whacked some anti emetic in my line. I felt better, but my mouth was unbelievably dry. I was given ice to suck. And then I started to pass in and out of consciousness for about an hour (I think). I was told after I was in there for two hours. I thought I’d been in there less than half that.

Next thing I knew we were back in the delivery suit and beyond happy. All the worry was gone, he was here and he was really strong. Much smaller than I’d expected at 6lb 6oz, but perfect. Although I do recall thinking – blimey hasn’t he got enormous thumbs! He still has today, along with his huge feet!

And that’s my birth story. Obviously I could go on and on. About my time in hospital after the birth, about how my BP practically dropped over night, about the trouble we had with feeding. But I think I’ll leave it there. For now.’ 

Birth Story Of The Week – Steve, Lorna and Wil

Steve blogs all about his life over at Rainbow Dad and tweets @1Rainbowdad.


“I really can’t believe that it’s been almost 5 years since our first born, Wil, came into our life. I remember it like it was yesterday. What a day. Changed our life forever.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The excitement started when we found out we were expecting our first child.

Our story begins a bit differently. You see we’re a gay male couple, so it’s not so easy for us. My amazing sister, Lorna,  volunteered to be our surrogate. Something that we will be forever thankful for.

The thrill and joy we felt, when Lorna suprised us with the positive pregnancy test, didn’t diminish throughout her entire pregnancy. What I wasn’t expecting though, was just how scared and fearful I’d be throughout the entire thing. Scared that something would go wrong. Scared that the baby we wanted so much would be hurt. Or worse. Scared that we would lose the child we already loved. I wasn’t used to such an irrational fear. I had always been level headed and optimistic. After all, my head knew that Lorna had already carried two healthy children. Why would it be any different this time? I just couldn’t help it. Never had I wanted something more.

It was odd for us. Lorna lived 2 hours away from us in Sussex, so the time we could spend with her was limited. We made sure though that we attended every pre-natal appointment with her. The first time we heard Wils heart beat will stay with me forever. I’d almost convinced myself for no reason that it wouldn’t be there. Deep inside I think I couldn’t believe that we deserved this opportunity and therefore it was clearly going to end badly. We walked into the room and my heart was in my mouth. All the tension and fear I felt though melted away when we heard his heart beat . Strong and loud. Like a train chugging proudly down a track. I couldn’t help but look at Ivan and cry with relief.

Strangely it didn’t get any easier for the subsequent scans and remainder of Lorna’s pregnancy. There was never anything wrong. We had a strong and healthy baby growing. Every scan, every appointment proved just how silly I was being. I just couldn’t help it.

I must have bugged the he’ll out of her calling all the time and asking how she was. Trouble was as we weren’t with her often so I needed constant updates to feel involved. The scans were amazing. Overwhelming. Unbelievable. I was so proud. Proud of Lorna. Proud of Ivan. Proud of us. We had a 3d scan too in order to see Wil again. It was the most amazing feeling seeing him on that screen.

When we weren’t with Lorna we just spoke endlessly about how it would be when we had our son. At the 20 week scan we found out he was going to a boy. We were so happy. If only for the simple fact that we’d both easily agreed on the name William. But for the life of us couldn’t agree on a girls name. Ivan had some rather odd ideas as to what was a good girls name. So, having a boy saved a hell of a lot of arguing.

The day we got that phone call was overwhelming. Lorna rang us the morning of 10th July 2009. She had been in labour for a while,  but still early stages. Given the distance we had to travel we agreed that we would head over and stay at my Mums which was only 5 minutes from my sister. We got there late afternoon and eagerly awaited a call to say we should head over. Not only was Lorna bravely having our baby, she also decided that she wanted to have him at home. I didn’t have a sister I had a wonder woman. Perhaps she really is an angel.

We’d been waiting very impatiently all afternoon when we got the phone call. Unfortunately the phone call was to say that labour had stopped. Frustrated we decided the only thing we could do was drink wine at my Mums to pass the time. After all, we were going to be parents. Surely it would be one of our last opportunities.

I had drunk enough to feel merry and forget the frustration of labour when the phone rang again. This time it was to say that labour had started again and was going full throttle.

Shit!  I was half pissed. I couldn’t let my sister know I had been so irresponsible. She was selflessly suffering for us while I sat back and drunk. I put on a sober voice and agreed we’d get our heads down and they would call as soon as it seemed imminent. I guiltily put my head to the pillow praying I would sober up in time.

The final call came a couple of hours later. About midnight I guess. Thankfully the adrenaline completely sobered me and we headed straight over. We arrived and Lorna was upstairs. Her house was busy with 2 midwives and the sound of painful screaming. I would like to say I felt guilty, but all I felt was a bubbling excitement at the fact that we would shortly be parents.

We’d agreed with Lorna that we could be there for the birth but not actually in the room. In Lorna’s words she knew what a bitch she was in labour. I was just massively relieved that I wouldn’t be seeing too much of my sister!

We waited nervously downstairs. We were so excited but so scared. I don’t remember what we talked about I just remembered keep looking at each other when her screams broke the silence. We had to move from room to room as Lorna moved around; upstairs, downstairs, bathroom, bedroom. It was endless. I thought they’d said he’d be there any moment. 4 hours passed and it seemed the midwifes were getting worried. They didn’t say anything, just seemed more serious and had more conversations that we couldn’t hear. Lorna was doing so well,  but was clearly getting tired from all the work she was doing on only gas and air.

I didn’t have to say anything to Ivan to know he was as worried as me. That delightful feeling was starting to sit as a knot in my stomach. We moved closer to each other and held each other in silent support. Then the moment came that the midwife told us that they were going to move Lorna to the hospital. She had made no progress for a few hours and was physically drained. Lorna needed assistance that they couldn’t give her at home.

Lorna was on her own in the bedroom whilst the midwives made arrangements for an ambulance on the phone. One of the midwifes went back into the bedroom and I heard a cry of “we’ve got a baby”. In one desperate effort whilst on her own Lorna had managed to deliver our baby. The midwives helped fully deliver him and laid him on her chest before calling us up. I looked on overwhelmed with love and amazement as Ivan cut the cord binding my amazing sister and our precious son William Campbell. We had a kiss and fed him, lost in the amazement of him. He was perfect. A beautiful bundle that was to be the start of our real journey together.

William Campbell was born on 11th July 2009 at 05:09hrs weighing 9lb 6oz. And he was perfect.”


Birth Story Of The Week – Becky and Amelie


“Somehow I never felt at all worried about or scared of going into labour. Every negative birth story I heard went in one ear and out the other, I truly believed I would have a very straightforward birth. My husband, Phil, often remarked on how relaxed I seemed about the impending pain.

Despite feeling really well during pregnancy, eating a good diet and doing regular(ish) exercise, I developed gestational diabetes at about 32 weeks. The initial shock of getting it was huge and I felt upset and even embarrassed. In reality, I was able to manage it well with diet alone and it didn’t really cause any problems… Even if it did mean saying no to cake at a time when you imagine you’d have the best excuse ever to eat it in abundance.

Because of the diabetes, I was told that I would be induced if the pregnancy went a day over 40 weeks. Desperate not to be induced, my midwife (Clemmie) and consultant both suggested sweeps from about 37 or 38 weeks. At 38+2 I thought that I maybe had a bit of a show in the evening. At 38+3 I had a sweep in the morning, at which Clemmie surprised me saying that I was already 3cm dilated… Although I felt ready and had always imagined that I would follow in my mum’s footsteps and labour early, I still couldn’t, and didn’t, really believe it. Of course I ignored Clemmie’s advice to rest that afternoon and instead spent 5 hours in Sainsburys trawling every every aisle, buying cake ingredients, magazines and tens of quick cook meals for us during the days of quiet labour that I assumed we had ahead of us. I recollect feeling vaguely ‘crampy’ that afternoon and perhaps had more Braxton hicks than usual (though I’d been having pretty strong and regular BH since about 20 weeks).

I didn’t mention to Phil that day that I was already 3cm dilated as I was sure that you could be 2 or 3cm for a few weeks before actually going into labour and I didn’t want to worry him or get him prematurely excited. So, as planned, he went out for drinks after work that evening and got back home at about 10.30pm.

I think he knew something was up as soon as he got home. I was quieter than usual and said I was just going to head off to bed. Rather than finding some sport to watch on TV, he came into the bedroom, lit some candles and put on relaxing music. He lay down on the bed beside me and stroked my hair whilst I tried to fall asleep. Sure enough, at 11.30pm, I had my first proper contraction and, unable to stay on my back, I flipped onto all fours on the bed. Phil immediately opened the contraction timer app we had downloaded and started timing…

After that first contraction I anticipated a long break until the next, but they were immediately 2 minutes apart and about 40 seconds long. I went through various different positions and found I enjoyed using a ball to support me through them. We had been advised that once the contractions were 3 in 10 to let labour continue for a couple of hours before calling the midwife but I knew after 40 minutes that I needed someone sooner.

At around 1.30am, another midwife, turned up. I was 7cm dilated when she examined me and happy to be told I could get into the pool. The pool felt AMAZING. The warm water felt so supportive and soothing after being on dry land and eased my aches and pains.


I spent about 2 hours in the pool until I started to feel too hot and Amelie’s heart rate went a little too high. After a couple of high readings, so the midwife decided we should transfer into the hospital to be on the safe side. As it was, as soon as I half clambered, half fell, out of the pool, her heart rate returned to normal but at this point I felt more comfortable heading into hospital for the final part.

Coming out of the pool, I had no clothes on except a crop top and wanted to stay this way – as far I was concerned at this point mid labour, I had no worries about the whole of south east London seeing my bare behind! Obviously more concerned for my modesty (and I am thankful in hindsight), the midwife insisted I put some clothes on and began pulling my knickers and trousers on despite my many protestations. I don’t remember much of the transfer, as by this point (at 9-10cms) the contractions were very intense, except that on arriving at King’s hospital none of the lifts would work. Eventually we found one that did and once in our room, Phil set about getting the music on whilst the midwife set up a mat and ball on the floor.

I remember feeling before we left home that I wanted to start pushing – my body must have slowed down during the journey in but I think once we were settled in the room things kicked off again.

Pushing Amelie out felt like the most epic and powerful task. I was using all my might and more and she would only move a fraction of a millimetre and then between each push would move back up again. Mid way through my waters burst like a water bomb. I tried hard to keep focused, think hypnobirthing thoughts and use all my inner strength to get through what I definitely found the most challenging of the labour. I think I pushed for about an hour and 10 minutes, mainly in a squatting position hanging from Phil’s knees with him sitting on a stool behind me.

Amelie Rose was born at 6.07am weighing 5lbs 9oz. Given that she was comparatively small I thought it should have been easier to push her out – but it turned out she had a hand up by her ear, which made it harder and caused a very small tear. I felt completely ecstatic and overwhelmingly happy that my birth had been short, straightforward and without pain relief.

Unfortunately, there were some complications post-delivery. Amelie took a breath upon coming out but then there was a pause and her skin tone wasn’t too great. I scooped her up from beneath me and rubbed and hugged her but it wasn’t long before the midwife took the decision to cut the cord and whisk her off for help. Something was blocking her airway and she was unable to shift it herself so it was suctioned out for her. She had oxygen for a short while and was taken off to SCBU and I sent Phil off with her. I was distraught. Desperate to see Amelie again as soon as possible I opted for the syntocinon injection to speed up the delivery of the placenta. I’m sure it was because I had been separated from Amelie, but this stage felt much more painful than I had expected.

I was unaware at this time that my blood pressure had gone through the roof, and at some point someone must have taken a blood test. In hindsight I must have known that something was up as with one thing and another, very little communication and lots of worry, it wasn’t until 6 hours after I had delivered little Amelie that I was allowed to go and visit her in SCBU.

I couldn’t believe that we had created this perfect little creature. She was delicate and beautiful and I breastfed her then for the first time. I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility and emotion.

But I had to leave her after just an hour and soon I was being wheeled through the wards to the high dependency unit and hooked up to a magnesium sulfate drip to decrease the likelihood of me fitting. Not only had my blood pressure rocketed, my liver had started to fail. It terrifies me that I still felt so well and would have had no idea that my body was reacting so badly to giving birth. I had gone some way to developing HELLP syndrome, a variant of preeclampsia. No one was ever really able to give me a clear answer as to whether I did get HELLP syndrome or not. Things weren’t right but I think that bodies can do some pretty strange things post-delivery and it’s a little unclear as to whether my body would have righted itself at some point or whether I needed all the medication that I was put on (which made me feel awful) to make me better. Either way, I wouldn’t have taken the risk of not taking it, not now I had a little being who was going to be completely reliant on me.

Hooked up to the drip I wasn’t allowed to visit Amelie anymore. Phil went to and fro between us, bringing me photos and videos, sending her my love, hugs and kisses. He changed her nappy for each one of those first meconium poos! He was absolutely my rock and hero and fought my corner to have Amelie brought to see me once every three hours so I could feed her.

After 48 hours I was off the drip and up in the postnatal ward. Amelie was released from SCBU and just went up there twice a day to get antibiotics, which they gave her as a precaution after the blockage in her airway. We stayed on the postnatal ward for 4 more nights, being constantly monitored. Phil stayed with us, sleeping half on a chair and half on the hospital bed. He went home each morning to make me a fruit smoothie and bring me homemade food. We were shattered from lack of sleep on a busy ward with a new baby. Until finally there was no reason to keep us in anymore but they seemed unable to let us go. In the end I threatened self-discharge and was finally allowed to go home.

Walking through our front door with our precious little bundle was the beginning of everything. I can’t believe that Amelie turns one on 8 August this year and took her first steps without holding my hand last weekend.

Writing about my labour and birth experience makes me realise that actually all I really remember now are the good bits. Whilst I am scared for next time and worried I’ll develop HELLP or preeclampsia again, I do hope that there is a next time. I feel incredibly lucky to have had a fantastic labour, nearly exactly how I wanted it – only 6 hours long, mainly at home, in a pool for a few hours and under the care of some really excellent, encouraging and supportive midwives. Most of all I feel mighty smug to have a little family all of my own.”


Birth Story Of The Week – Nikki and Emmy

Todays birth story comes from Nikki who blogs all about life with her daughter over at Here she shares how her induction and medical intervention led to her dream water birth going out of the window.


”So where should I start? Perhaps at my 34 week appointment, where the Birth Centre agreed to take me as long as I kept trying to increase my iron levels. Iron levels had been a problem since the start of my pregnancy. I’d already resumed eating meat after a few years as a vegetarian, and at this point I started taking liquid supplements too. I hadn’t really enjoyed being pregnant, and arranging to give birth at a Midwife-Led Unit seemed like it would be a lovely end to it. We had a tour and we fell in love with it – especially the fact my husband could stay overnight with us in a comfy double bed. I hoped to have a water birth with as little intervention as possible – gas and air, with lots of moving around. This was encouraged by the midwives who ran the centre. Assuming the pregnancy was straightforward, the only definite thing that see you transferred from the MLU to the labour ward was induction. 

By the time I got to 41 weeks, I realised I wasn’t sure how much longer I could go for. My hips were causing me a lot of pain, I was barely sleeping and couldn’t move far. At my appointment on the Tuesday at 41+1, they attempted a stretch and sweep, but swiftly abandoned it because it to was too painful and my cervix was still completely closed. With a sinking feeling we discussed induction before the weekend. We asked for Friday, but they only had Thursday or Monday available, so rather than face several more days of discomfort and uncertainty, we chose the former. I left the hospital determined to bounce on my ball and move around as much as possible to get the baby moving. On Wednesday night I finally nested, cleaning the house and tackling the huge pile go ironing that needed doing. I kept hoping to feel something but nothing was happening. We went to bed early, apprehensive and excited about the next day.

The beginning of the induction was pretty straight forward. We went in for 8am, dragging all our bags with us. We’d been told to come in as if I was in labour, and led to believe we wouldn’t be leaving until we had a baby to go home with. I was put on the monitor for half an hour to get a base line, then after a quick internal, I had the pessary inserted (why do those things have so many sharp edges?!) and was left on the monitor for another half hour. The midwife came over and admonished me for not eating enough for breakfast and came back with biscuits for me to eat, before running over potential side effects with us. Then, to our surprise, they told us to go home and wait things out, returning when I got to the mythical 3 in 10 or at 6pm that evening, whichever came first. I was told we could hang about the hospital if we wanted, but that going home to bed would probably make more sense, so that’s what we did. We left with more biscuits and the elastic straps used for monitoring (they told us to hang on to them!).

I was knackered and decided to have a nap when we got home. I could already feel things twinging a bit, but there didn’t seem to be any real beginning or end to the contractions and they weren’t even hurting enough for me to class as contractions. I had something to eat, and then tried to nap some more, before realising that these were starting to feel more like the waves of contractions I was expecting, but that there was very little let down. I could still speak through them and they were painful, but nothing as bad as I had expected. At about 4pm I rang the hospital for advice and was told to come straight back in as it sounded like I had reacted badly to the Propess and was hyper-stimulating. They had warned us this might happen – it’s when you experience continual contractions that aren’t anywhere near the intensity needed to push the baby out.

When we got there, I was whisked off to an exam room, where I produced the elastic straps for the monitor, and was hooked up again. I was then given an internal which led to furrowed brows and a more senior midwife repeating it. I didn’t hear what was said, but my husband did – my cervix was now opening, but they thought they could feel the baby’s nose through it. I was sent up to the labour ward, where I was put back on the monitor. After a while the door opened and the consultant obstetrician and several other doctors came in with a portable monitor. I was told they suspected face presentation, in which case I would need an immediate c-section, but not to worry as face presentations were ‘as rare as hen’s teeth’. The scan showed it was not a nose, and indeed they couldn’t see anything. They guessed it might have been an ear, and all bustled out again leaving me on the monitor. I spent the rest of the evening hooked up, with the contractions getting more and more defined, and more painful. At about 11pm I was transferred down to the ward and my husband was sent home.

I managed fitful sleep for a few hours until about 4am when I woke needing the loo. I sat up and suddenly realised I didn’t need the loo – my waters went in a fairly big rush. I called the midwife who got me a clean gown and changed the bed then removed the Propess. Those sharp edges hurt more coming out then going in. Much more. My waters breaking led to a real ramping up of the contractions, and they became pretty unbearable, pretty fast. I asked for pain relief and was given some gas and air about half seven, but before that I was contracting alone, with no pain relief in a darkened ward, trying not to wake the other women up. This was probably the worst bit of my labour – I was scared, and alone, and desperately wanted some support.

Once I was allowed some gas and air it got a bit easier. I didn’t find it helped the pain, but the wooziness allowed me to concentrate on something else. About 9am I was moved up to the labour ward, and I started asking for an epidural. I was so tired and in so much pain, and I didn’t think I would be able to carry on for much longer. I was told that before I could have one, I needed to lie on the bed, on my back for 15 minutes for monitoring. I refused point blank to do this, knowing that that was the position my contractions were the worst in. They finally agreed to let me stand, leaning over the bed for monitoring, and called the anaesthetist. James was allowed in just as they were prepping me for the epidural, and him and the assistant anaesthetist held me still whilst it was sited. I felt awful for being so stroppy over it, but the idea of lying down for 15 minutes was utterly terrifying.

The relief was almost instantaneous. I was able to nap a bit and get some rest, which was sorely needed. Unfortunately, the epidural also slowed my contractions right down, so at midday I went on to the Syntocin drip. The afternoon passed in a haze of napping, eating Percy Pigs, topping up the epidural and a gradual ramping up of the drip. The contractions were coming regularly but weren’t increasing in intensity. A couple of internals were done, and I didn’t seem to be dilating much. Baby was doing fine but I was getting tired, and it was decided that we’d give it until 6pm, then a decision would be made as to next steps. 

The whole time this was going on we were listening to the heart monitor, which was reassuring, but if I moved around too much it slipped and we had to get someone to come back and re-site it, which was stressful – especially because the monitoring bands itched an unholy amount! Every 90 minutes to 2 hours the epidural was topped up just to keep the pain managed, but other than that there was nothing much anyone did.

At 4pm we got a new midwife. She did a quick internal showing I had dilated a bit more, but still not enough. She checked the Syntocin drip and suggested that the valve on it might have been set incorrectly, which would explain why the increasing doses weren’t causing more contractions, but no-one ever confirmed whether this had been the case. We chatted and she did some paperwork, and before long, the deadline of 6pm had arrived. The epidural was topped up in preparation for the internal, and I don’t think anyone was more surprised than her to find out I had finally got to full dilation! For reasons I don’t fully understand, she said we would give it an hour then start pushing. The epidural was tapered slightly to allow me a bit more feeling, and then we started. We kind of thought that the pushing bit would be fairly quick, so I was surprised when she said they’d review the situation after I’d been pushing for two hours. I was thinking I’d be holding my baby by 8pm at the latest!

We tried many different positions, using a stool, using the bed, squatting, lying down, on all fours…but nothing was happening. At 8pm we got another new midwife. She was pretty brusque, and seem determined to get the baby out, but it wasn’t happening. At 9pm a doctor was called in, and it was decided that I was going to need some help, but the monitoring was showing that despite her being pretty much wedged in the birth canal, she was doing fine, with the steadiest heart rate we could ask for. Because of this, they prioritised another mum whose baby was in a little distress, and promised to be back as soon as they could. The midwife decided that we were going to get this baby out in the meantime, and I tried my hardest, but by this point I was getting exhausted and was tearful, convinced I couldn’t do it. During this time, an incubator was brought in, and at half nine, the doors opened and quickly the room filled with people. It all started to get very hectic and I was put in to position on the bed, legs up in stirrups, and they explained they were going to use ventouse to get the baby out, along with an epistiostomy. The epidural was topped up, and there was a lot of pulling and prodding. I could feel the cup being attached, and then the monitors were watched, waiting for my next contraction.

I don’t remember how many pushes it took. I do remember being shocked at the violence of it. NCT classes had led me to believe it was a gentle procedure, using the suction to help the baby out. My husband described it as basically a tug of war. Suddenly I felt her come out and saw her briefly as the cord was cut. I didn’t hear her cry, and couldn’t see her, and I was so worried something was wrong. James could see her moving and knew she was okay, but in the commotion neither of us could communicate to each other, and it seemed like an age before she made a noise. Then she was brought over to me, this squinty little baby, frowning at everyone and all I could think was how perfect she looked.

The next few hours are blurry. Emmy was born at 9.45pm and I know I was stitched up, that we spoke to our parents, that I got the fabled tea and toast, that I cuddled her. Apparently I fed her, but I don’t remember this. The next thing I remember is about 2am, the midwife asking if I wanted a shower. She gave James the baby, then left so that I could go shower. I got up and went in to the bathroom, and promptly fell over. James called a midwife, who came in, hit the alarm, and once again the room filled up. I was helped in to a wheelchair, whilst my bed was remade, and I was put in a fresh gown, and out back to bed with more tea and toast, and told to get some sleep. Me passing out was out down to a combination of exhaustion, blood loss, and little food and sleep for 48 hours. James spent a couple of hours cuddling our baby girl whilst I slept. When I woke up, they said I’d soon be moved down to the ward so he was sent home. I changed her for the first time on the ward and, in the morning she was given a BCG injection (which is normal for West London). James came back in around midday and we left the hospital about 18 hours after her birth. She didn’t have much swelling from the ventouse cup, but there was a huge open sore and a big bruise from it, which looked so painful for her.

nikki and emmy 2nikki and emmy
Without being a C-section, Emmy’s birth was about as far from what I wanted as possible. I know people say that all that matters is that we are both here and both healthy, and to a point I agree, but I think it’s affected me a lot more than I realised at the time. We didn’t get to delay the cord clamping, I didn’t get to have immediate skin to skin, I didn’t get a water birth. I do have a wonderful, amazing daughter, and I am healthy, but if I think too much about her actual birth and the immediate moments after, I just remember how scared I was, which isn’t exactly the memory I wanted from my birth. Hopefully in time this will fade, and I’ll just remember how perfect she looked when she was handed to me.”

Birth Story Of The Week- Anya Rose

Dear Anya Rose

Today you are 7, an age I can vividly remember being myself yet it feels like only yesterday that you left my heavy, swollen body to meet me on that Summer Solstice back in June.

You weren’t meant to really be born at all yet, if my life plan had gone well according to plan, I was expecting you in around the next few years. Married at 30, baby at 32. But who likes to live by the rules, not me.

You grew inside me whilst I watched all my friends embark on the start of their lives. I envied their new existence in the world, their freedom and spontaneity but I clung on to the hope that you would be here soon and that’s all that mattered. We stuck together knowing that one day things would be Ok and Daddy would make the big move to London work out for us, because he always believed in us as a little unit, our family.

You finally decided to come 5 days after your due date, it was early on a hot Saturday morning, the sun was up but your Daddy slept soundly next to me as the early signs of labour woke me from such a vivid dream. I was dreaming I had a dark haired daughter and we called her Lola. Up until then you had always been a boy in my mind, blonde curls like his Daddy was but this dream was so clear. I knew you and I were going to meet today. I paced our tiny upside down flat waiting to see what these pains would turn into. My midwife head told me to eat so I managed a bowl of muesli and a glass of orange juice and decided to try out my TENS machine. Daddy woke and found me leaning over the banister, breathing deeply as I imaged I would meet my baby soon.

He lit candles, ran me a bath and soothed my sounds with the play list we’d so carefully compiled over the past few months. We were ready, our baby, so unplanned but so wanted was going to be born today. A mix of excitement but nerves hit me as the contractions intensified and my body told me ‘it’s time to go in’. We turned off our phones and left them on the kitchen table, not wanting to be engaged in the outside world, anxious Grandparents-to-be waiting for a call to say ‘it’s here’. We felt safe.

We made our way into the the Birth Suite. Daddy chatting away as if it was any old day, me humming deeply trying to focus on my unborn baby and not the road humps further ahead.

I was welcomed by the friendly faces I knew so well, the pool room was ready and we unpacked as if to say ‘this is our nest now’, Daddy made the room so soft and cosy. The noise of the running water filling the pool soften my deeper more guttural sounds that were coming from within. I was 5 cm dilated and your head was in a good position. We were off to a good start but I always knew you and I would work together, subconsciously as a team.

Time seemed to pass in a haze, the clock on the wall ticked so loudly I demanded it be taken out of the room! I needed to find that space within the overload of activity in my head. You were moving around, twisting and turning and getting your little chin tucked down ready for the next stage.

And then nothing. The sound stopped, the pain in my pubic bone stopped and the birthing pool no longer felt safe and small but a big dark abyss that I wanted to swim away from. I looked at your Daddy and the midwives not knowing what to do with myself. I got out of the pool and lay down on the soft mat, the cool plastic against my wet face felt soothing and calming. I closed my eyes and felt like I could have slept for ever. I was so tired, all I wanted was to meet you but the sheer exhaustion of the past 8 hours made my body feel so heavy and weak, like a dead weight I shut my eyes and zoned out the voices around me. Daddy was worried, he wanted to know if that was normal and those familiar voices of my midwives reassured him and said ‘let her sleep she’s in transition.’

But before I could even let my thoughts start forming into dreams in my mind, a different sensation started building in my sacrum. A rumbling like the beginning of a thunder storm in the mountains grew inside me and I just knew this was no thunder storm, but something harder and more powerful inside me. Was my body capable of experiencing such a force? I began to panic and your Daddy grabbed my hand and lifted me up off from the mat and told me ‘it’s Ok just listen to your body, don’t be afraid’. And that’s exactly what I did. There was no stopping it, the sensation was something I can hardly describe, like a breeze block being pushed harder and harder down my lower back into my pelvic floor. I couldn’t control these powerful waves of pressure, so I hung off your Daddy’s waist as I got into a deep squat and focused on your amazing body expel from my pelvis.

And then your head was out, I had my eyes tightly shut too scared to look at the reality of what was happening to my body, but with lots of encouragement from the chorus of voices around me I opened them for just one second. And in that second I saw your head, out of my body turning to release your shoulders. Your hair was black not blonde and I knew this was it. The moment you and I would be internally separated but the moment we would meet face to face.

Onto the mat underneath me you slid, all 7 pounds 11 ounces of your squishy pink warm body. Your cord was still perfectly placed in between your legs as if to say ‘not yet Mummy you can’t peak yet’. Your hair was so dark and looked curly and Daddy turned to me and kept saying ‘I can’t believe you did that for me’. I had done it. I had given birth to our baby, our baby girl.

And just like that we were a family, a tiny family of 3. We snuggled on the bed feeling each others skin as you took my body heat looking for your first feed. Like a brand new baby kitten but you felt so strong and capable of anything. You were our tiny person, created totally unintentionally but your presence was very much felt between us. You had caused me worry and fear beyond anything in those early weeks of finding out you were growing inside me. Terrified of your Daddy and my future but that all seemed so irrelevant now.

Today you are 7. You have three adult teeth and two wobbly ones. You love making up dance routines, showing us magic tricks, exploring in the garden, laughing hysterically at your sisters madness and adore your Daddy Doo. You declared you love all subjects at school, have discovered the wonderful world of Roald Dahl and could tell me every joke in your Horrid Henry book. You are feisty, ballsy, inquisitive and can show me a thing or two when winning an argument. I see so much of me in you it scares me. But I know we are raising an amazing force of nature. Happy Birthday Anya Rose.

Preparing for Being Induced

photo (37)

3 years and 9 months ago I was researching my planned home birth for my second baby. I had booked under a home birth team, borrowed a pool and had even asked a good friend to have my daughter for a sleep over if it should happen in the day. But that little plan all changed at 37 weeks when I was diagnosed with Obstetric Choleostasis. BIG SAD FACE. I still find it difficult to accept that I was induced. That I agreed to being induced despite everything I believe in, and wanted for my birth. Ok so I did have a relatively quick induction (5 hours) and ok I did give birth in the pool with no tears but that doesn’t mean it was what I wanted. And I have been known to say to my husband after getting home from a beautiful home birth ‘Oh please can we have one more baby just so I can experience a home birth?’.

As a midwife of a few years now, I have worked in both hospital and home birth settings. I have seen hundreds and hundreds of births and many of those have been in the form of an induction. When discussing induction with my women at 38 weeks, I go through the check list in their notes and explain the process and what each stage means. Most women are surprised at how long each stage can take, I try to be realistic and manage their expectations. After all the unknown can feel scary – I should know. So this blog post is to help you if you’re being induced. It’s not to scare you, or give you false expectations. Try to remember that not every induction is the same and what might work for one person, might not work for someone else. As always speak to your midwife if you have any further questions.

So the basics. Induction means to start your labour artificially either with synthetic hormones administered into your body or by having your waters broken (artificial rupture of membranes ARM). You will be offered an induction if the risk of prolonging your pregnancy is more serious than the risk of your baby being born sooner. You may have been recommended that induction is the safest option for you and your baby if:

  • you are diabetic
  • you have pre eclampsia
  • the fluid around your baby is too much (polyhydramnios) or too little (oligohydramnios)
  • your placenta is not working effectively
  • your baby is not growing at a normal rate
  • your waters have broken but labour has not started naturally within 24-48 hours
  • you are ‘over due’
  • or any other medical reason which an obstetrician has agreed

Depending on why you are being induced will vary where you will actually be induced. For example if you’re over due but ‘low risk’ you will most likely be induced on an antenatal ward. This ward usually consists of a 4 bedded bay (with curtains around you for privacy) with other women who may also be being induced or are being kept in for observations. Occasionally when the postnatal ward (where you after you’ve had your baby) is full, some of these mums and new babies will be admitted to the antenatal ward. It’s a good idea to take with you a pillow, some ear plugs and eye mask as induction may take a day or two before anything actually happens and hospital wards are noisy at night. You want to get as much sleep as possible when you can so you’re not too tired when the real work starts! If you’re being induced for a medical reason and are being considered ‘high risk’ you will most likely be induced on the labour ward. Depending on the hospital you may have a shared bay or a single room. It’s always good to ask your midwife/obstetrician about this.

Other good things to pack in your bag if you are being induced are:

  • a hot water bottle
  • A TENS machine
  • something to read ie books which include positive birth stories, a magazine, an ipad
  • comfortable shoes for walking around in (walking is really good for getting yourself into labour)
  • personal head phones

How is induction carried out?

A Sweep: A membrane sweep is when a midwife or doctor sweeps their finger around the opening of your cervix. This action can stimulate labour. Your midwife may offer you a sweep if you are full-term and waiting for labour to start. She’ll suggest a sweep at your 40-week appointment if this is your first baby, or at your 41-week appointment if you’ve had a baby before. During a sweep, your midwife carefully separates the membranes that surround your baby from your cervix to stimulate the production of prostaglandin. If your cervix is not dilated enough to do a sweep, she may stretch or massage your cervix instead. You may be offered two or three membrane sweep. It can be uncomfortable if your cervix is difficult to reach, and you may need to have several membrane sweeps before labour starts. If you are unclear about anything, ask your midwife to explain. (

Prostaglandins: Prostaglandin is a hormone-like substance that causes your cervix to ripen, and which may stimulate contractions. Your midwife will insert a tablet, pessary or gel containing prostaglandin into your vagina. The slow-release pessary, Propess, looks a bit like a small tampon. If you are given Propess, try to lie on your side for 30 minutes so it has time to absorb moisture and swell. You’ll then be able to move about. While you wait for prostaglandins to work you can usually go for a walk around. You may be able to go home for up to six hours or until your contractions start. How you are given prostaglandin depends on whether this is your first or second baby. If this is your first baby, you may need a second dose of a tablet or gel after six hours.

Artificial rupture of membranes (ARM) Artificially rupturing the membranes (ARM), also called breaking the waters, isn’t recommended as a first method of induction unless vaginal prostaglandins can’t be used. However, some doctors or midwives may use ARM as part of the induction process or to speed up your labour if it’s not progressing. This procedure can be carried out during an internal examination. Your midwife or doctor makes a small break in the membranes around your baby and she’ll use a long thin probe (amnihook). An ARM often works when the cervix feels soft and ready for labour to start. It can be quite uncomfortable, so you may be offered gas and air to help you to cope. ARM doesn’t always get labour started, and once your waters have been broken, your baby could be at risk of infection. That’s why it’s no longer recommended as a method of induction on its own and is best used after labour has started. If your midwife or doctor suspects an infection, she will give you antibiotics.

Syntocinon is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin. You will only be offered it if a membrane sweep or prostaglandin hasn’t started your labour, or if your contractions aren’t effective. Your waters have to be broken before you can be given Syntocinon. Because Syntocinon has several disadvantages, if other methods of induction haven’t worked, you may be offered a caesarean instead. You’ll have Syntocinon through an intravenous drip, allowing the hormone to go straight into your bloodstream through a tiny tube inserted into a vein in your arm. Once your contractions have begun, the rate of the drip can be adjusted. This allows contractions to happen often enough to make your cervix dilate, without becoming too powerful. Syntocinon is started at a very low dose and increased gradually to prevent it from stimulating your uterus or causing stress to your baby. Syntocinon can cause strong contractions and put your baby under stress, so you will need to be monitored continuously. The contractions brought on by Syntocinon may be more painful than natural ones. So you may choose to have an epidural for pain relief.

Other Things To Remember: Some hospitals may have the option of using a telemetry monitoring (wireless) so you can walk around and not be confined to the bed. Ask for the use of mats, balls, a birthing stool, remember you DO NOT HAVE TO LIE ON THE BED. Not every induction means the use of syntocinon but you may want to consider trying the drip without an epidural to give your baby a good chance of getting in a better position for birth (epidurals increase the rate of having an instrumental delivery). Discuss each stage of your induction with you midwife/doctor to make sure you and your birth partner understand all options and that you can make an informed choice. And if that doesn’t make you feel empowered read this amazing birth story by Lucy who had the syntocinon drip for her first labour and totally blew the midwives mind!


Alpha Papa

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

It takes a real man to raise 2 daughters

This weekend was Father’s Day. A day which has bitter sweet meaning for me. Firstly, when I was growing up we didn’t celebrate Father’s Day as my own father didn’t ‘believe’ in it so I was the only child who opted out of making a card at school. As my Father is no longer alive, I don’t feel sad on Father’s Day as I have a pretty awesome guy being a GREAT Dad in my house to our two little girls. But unfortunately (and a second year in a row) we seem to be at friend’s weddings the weekend Father’s day falls. So yesterday was spent hung over, eating pizza and watching re runs of Friends. He said it was his best Father’s Day ever so brownie points for me.

Today’s birth story comes another awesome chap I know, husband to a friend and father to a one year old little girl. I saw them at the wedding on Saturday and we agreed what better way to celebrate Father’s Day on the blog than no other than a birth story, but written by a father. So here is Shiraz’s email he sent us all when his wife Susan gave birth to their daughter Amelie in Botswana.

Shiraz and Amelie

Shiraz and Amelie

It’s late, I’m exhausted, but I’m home alone (Susan’s Mum is staying in the hospital with Susan and Amelie) so here are the key facts…
At 2 in the morning (Monday 17th June 2013) Susan wakes up saying her water’s broken.  After reading the NHS advice we decided to call the Doctor.  He says try and get some sleep and come into the clinic at 6.30am.  We do actually get a bit of sleep (in hindsight, not sure how), but Susan’s contractions started and by 5.30am in the morning they were pretty painful.
Working on auto pilot (i.e. no emotions at this point), I pack the final things for the hospital bags and get them, plus the car seat, into the Honda as Susan’s pain gets worse. Susan’s Mum (who arrived on Sunday) recognises that it’s going to happen today. She doesn’t realise how soon.
Get to clinic at 6.40. Incredibly, we have to wait 10 mins before Dr Jochen Eichler is ready. Susan goes for an internal exam (I’m left in the office) and is first told “I’m not going to be able to come to the hospital with you as I have appointments all day.” Susan cries  “WTF?!” The Eichler inspects and realises he’s got it all wrong. (Later he tells us that he was expecting Susan would be in the early stages of labour and it would still be a while for any serious action. This information was based on the calmness of Susan’s phone voice at 2am; calm or tired or classically apologetically English?)
He storms back into the office where I’m waiting and after shouting something about “8cm already”, he demands that I bring the car to the door and that we go straight to the hospital (about 20-30 mins drive away). It’s 6.55am and as Susan and I jump into our car and Dr Eichler gets into his, he shouts that if we have to deliver on the roadside we will: “I’ve got my [rubber] gloves” whilst waving the said gloves.
I’m no longer on auto pilot, passing-out feelings are rising, but our German doc makes as if he’s on the autobahn and so I’m forced to focus and keep up. Susan’s in the back and is letting out a combination of yelps and deep sighing grrrs as she tries to count through the contractions every minute or so. We get to the hospital in 20 mins, I drop Susan at the entrance shout for a wheelchair and she goes in with the Doctor. After parking and finding the delivery room (room 540 – the same room Susan, Amelie and Kay are sleeping in now), Susan is already being seen by two amazing midwives, is connected up to a drip and a couple of beepy machines and the Dr is talking her through the steps.  Basically the baby is likely to come soon.
It’s about 7.20 when I walk into room 540.  Only 1 hr 22 mins before Amelie is born.
We discover that it’s too far gone for any painkillers.  No epidural is possible.  Susan is suddenly frightened. It’s a heartbreaking thing to see, cos I can’t do anything about it.
For the first hour Susan is asked to breathe through the contractions (i.e. not push).  Susan moves into a zone: eyes closed, listening intently, but – she says later – only hearing key information, and answering very quietly. I massage her back and put a cold compress on her forehead between contractions and stay away or let her nails dig into my hand during the contractions. She seems to be doing well – even though there is obvious pain.
Things are happening so fast, I’m barely able to catch my breath.
About 8.20, the Doctor asks Monica (the reassuringly buxom midwife) to up the drip (which has a medicine in to make the contractions more powerful) and says to Susan “now we push.”
It takes about 7-8 contractions for Susan to make it happen.  Along the way a vacuum is used because the baby is the wrong way up (face up rather than down) and there is a chorus of “harder”, “stronger”, “longer” and even “we’re fighting for your baby”, which I’m not sure Susan heard, but made me suddenly understand everything (that same everything from the original email) clearly… for the first time.
There’s noise from Monica, Mary (another midwife) and Jochen.  Susan is pushing and suddenly I see a face.  Strange.  After just 1 or 2 seconds a purpley creature with a blue cable is pulled out and placed on Susan.
That is the moment. No words can explain it.  Certainly not words that I can string together. Beauty, responsibility, oddness combined into a ridiculously happy, yet perplexing moment.
Then: it’s a girl. Surprise!  Susan double, triple takes and then gets a remarkable glow.  No one expected this, least of all Susan.
The umbilical cord scissors are shunted into my hands. I recoil but am bullied by the six  foot aryan to do it: “it’s your baby”. I do, it’s fine, but it’s not the moment – that’s happened. 
After mum and baby skin-to-skin time, Amelie is taken for a rub down and to an incubator table.
I have Susan exhausted on one side and Amelie swaddled on the other.  We did it.
Susan has a few complications, but they are pretty much managed in about 30 mins and then she gets the baby.  Then I get a cuddle and we settle. Susan is exhausted and still in some pain.  She’s encouraged to go to the bathroom and goes in with the midwife but ends up fainting and about 5 nurses had to come to bring her back to the bed.  For about 20 mins she’s the palest I’ve ever seen her.  But that’s the worst of it, done.
Susan gets some sleep and I have 45 mins completely alone with Amelie. She in my arms, mostly sleeping, occasionally whimpering, a couple of mini-cries and a one 1 minute stare into my eyes.
Once Susan is up, I bring Susan’s mum to the hospital and we get a steady stream of midwives/nurses popping in to give advice, check up etc.  I feel like a spare part and long for those 45 mins alone with Amelie.
But that will happen again soon – everyday perhaps.”


Birth Story Of The Week – Gemma and Leo

Today’s birth story comes from Gemma founder of the blog Bristol Foodie. Gemma emailed me after following my blog for a while she says – “Whilst pregnant I was bombarded with horror stories of birth – and as a result many women seem to see a traumatic birth is an inevitability. I hope that you can publish my story and share my experience to show your readers that birth doesn’t have to be horrific – in fact with a little self belief and confidence in your body, it can be an amazing experience which you can treasure!”

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“I was overjoyed to find out I was pregnant but very nervous about birth inparticular tearing and needing stitches. Just thinking about it made me shudder! I knew that fearing birth would only make the experience more traumatic so decided very early on to try hypnobirthing and pregnancy yoga with local company, Purely Pregnant.

I was amazed by how quickly my perceptions changed! I quickly learned to block out all of the horror stories about childbirth that (unhelpfully) people love to share and focussed on the birth I wanted rather than the one I feared. Hypnobirthing was really transformational, after a matter of weeks I was feeling so confident and excited about our upcoming birth that when my boyfriend suggested home birth, I decided to go for it!

I enter week 40 convinced I’m going to be late. Mum on the other hand was convinced that I would have the baby within the week and when I go to my local NCT cafe session, my NCT teacher says the same. At this point the birth pool is still in boxes and I’m due to have a new boiler delivered that week Eeek!

As luck would have it, that very night, I wake up with pelvic discomfort. I toss and turn as the discomfort comes and goes and at 3am wake my boyfriend, Sam. “It’s happening”.

3.00am I leave Sam asleep and go to watch TV, after all it will be hours before things really kick off. I put on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, bounce on my birthing ball and do the “calm breathing” we learned in hypnobirthing.

4.00am I’m trying to not be too neurotic about timing contractions but at 4am curiosity gets the better of me. They’re closer than I thought, 5-6 minutes apart lasting a minute each. I wake Sam “I think we need to start putting the pool up”

For the next couple of hours Sam battles with the instruction manual for the birthing pool whilst I continue my relaxation techniques. The contractions are manageable at this point, a tightening sensation coming and going.

6.00am Surges are every 3-4 minutes and we ring Central Delivery Suite to let them know I’m in labour. I’m feeling okay so we agree for me to take a paracetamol and to ring back when I feel that I need more support.

8.00am Two hours later the surges are starting to feel more intense. No longer sitting on my birthing ball, I’m most comfortable on all fours. At 8.30ish we call CDS again and ask for a midwife.

At some point between 8am and the midwife arriving, British Gas arrived to drop off our boiler due to be installed the next day. I was in the living room and not really aware of what was going on but Sam tells me that the delivery men moved pretty quick when he told them I was labouring in the living room and that we were having a home birth!

9.30am The midwife has arrived and contractions, at 3 minutes apart are getting stronger and stronger. By now, I’m making a low “ooooh” sound as I exhale on each surge. My mooing might have sounded odd but at the time I found it was a really useful way of keeping my breathing calm and controlled.

I take two more paracetamol, put the hypnobirthing CD on and climb into the pool. As I lie back in the warm waters of the pool my whole body relaxes. For me, the water didn’t lessen the intensity of my contractions, but allowed me to relax and recover between contractions so I could rest and preserve energy for later stages.

11.30am Contractions start to slow and the midwife recommends I get out of the pool. We don’t know if my waters have broken. The midwife says I’m still in early stages of labour and I assume the pushing sensation I’ve started feeling for some contractions is the baby resting on my bowel as he moved down.

Sam is doing an amazing job helping me to breath calmly but I know that I’m struggling to cope. “I’m going to have to go to hospital.” I think to myself. “If this is early labour how much more intense will it get?!” I feel disappointed but know that I’ve done everything I can.

12.30pm We agree its time for the midwife to give me an examination. “Well” she says, “your waters haven’t broken, but your cervix is gone!” she looks and sounds surprised as am I! “I’m fully dilated?!” I can’t believe it, just a few more hours to go! I’d heard of people going through moments of “I can’t do this any more” and struggling to cope as they go through transition (7-10cm dilation) and in hindsight my moment’s of self doubt weren’t me giving up but must have been my transition from first to second stages of labour.

Full of relief and excitement as I enter into the second stage II get back in the pool, relaxing into the water. A second midwife arrives and my contractions get even stronger. I’m calling out to Sam and “mooing” with every contraction now, clinging on to him as I feel my muscles tighten. Its getting hard to stop myself tensing up with each surge but Sam’s continual coaching “breathe… breathe… slowly Gem… slowly” helps me to slowly exhale and stay in control. As I breathe out and relax everything feels so much better. In these moments I realised just how powerful my hypnobirthing techniques were things were certainly much more painful when I was tensed up. I’m so pleased I spent all that time practising how to relax myself, these skills came in really handy when I needed them most.

I feel the baby bearing down and start doing the “J breath” I learnt in hypnobirthing to try and breath him down. I focus on staying relaxed and working with each contraction, trying to stay relaxed enough to let my body take over and push as it needed to.

2.00pm My waters still haven’t broken. I stand in the pool and lean on Sam in the hope that gravity might break them and that our baby will follow soon after. I push hard with the next contraction but my waters stay in tact. The midwives break my waters as the next contraction builds. I push hard again, and let out a bit of a scream as I feel a searing, white hot pain and am swiftly guided back into the pool by the midwives as my waters and baby come out in one contraction.

2.05pm My baby is passed up through my legs and I lie back in the water with our son on my chest, Sam’s arms around the two of us. Tears of joy stream down my cheeks, the pain from minutes earlier already a distant memory. Weighing 6lb12oz, we call him Leo.image (1) (1)

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The next task was birthing the placenta which actually felt like more effort than the baby! I happily accepted gas and air for this part feeling just too exhausted to push without some help.

Leo had come out so quickly that I had a little tear and needed stitches (luckily these could be done at home). This was the thing I had been dreading most of all but in reality it was fine. I had gas and air, local anaesthetic and I didn’t feel a thing!

Sam confided in my afterwards that Leo came out so quickly that he was expecting me to have a much more serious tear and the midwives agreed. Perineal massage had seemed like a pretty arduous daily task during the last couple of months of pregnancy but I’m pretty sure that this was what made the difference between a second and fourth degree tear.

In the weeks that have passed I’ve loved seeing the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I describe my birth as “amazing” but it really was! Yes it was hard work, and the contractions got incredibly intense but I managed to stay in control throughout. I’m so pleased that I was able to give our beautiful baby Leo such a wonderful welcome into the world.


I was terrified of birth at the start of my pregnancy but managed to really turn things around. I hope that sharing my experiences will help other women who may feel anxious about birth to have confidence that our bodies are designed to do this and that whilst complications can and do occur, childbirth isn’t always a traumatic experience it can be an amazing one!